Most of my ancestors and there close relations were labourers or artisan, husbandmen and small farmers. Here are links to some relations who were a bit better off, who led lives with some more variety. This was added to by the ‘interesting times’ in which they lived.

The Wottons of Blackawton

I am only confident (as far as one can be with such things) of the names of 3 generations of Wotton ancestors, my 8 x great grandmother English (who became a Bartlett on marriage), her father Walter and grandfather William.

All three had strong links with Blackawton: English was baptised, married and buried there and probably lived there all of her life.

Walter was also married to his first wife, Jane Peeke, (English’s mother) in Blackawton and was buried there. He married his second wife, Mary Baylie, in the neighbouring parish of Stoke Fleming, but probably because that’s where Mary lived, and had been baptised in Dartmouth – and probably grew up in the town (all of his siblings seem to have been baptised there).

Although their children were baptised in Dartmouth, Walter’s parents, William and Sarah, had married in Blackawton. Sarah was a Knowling; the Knowlings do not appear to have had any links with Blackawton so the choice of parish was probably due to William having links to the parish.

To add weight to this, Walter’s brother William, who spent much if not most of his adult life in Exeter left bequests for the benefit of the parishes of both Dartmouth St. Saviours and Blackawton. Like Walter he probably grew up in Dartmouth, so this choice indicates a stronger link of the family to the parish than, say, his parents marrying there because it was convenient for the wedding breakfast.

It is quite likely that my Wotton ancestors were related to those in Blackawton who are found in the Parish Registers back to around the time they started, with just the fourth marriage recorded in the parish, in January 1538/39 being of a ‘Joane Wootton’.

Of particular interest …

If we can discover who they were, it can, of course, be difficult to know anything about  our ancestors in this period. In Devon this is especially the case due to the destruction of so many wills and inventories in the bombing of Exeter in WW2. But here we are in luck. The wills of both my ancestor Walter and his brother William were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, as were those of some other relations, and a couple of these led to complaints to the equity Court of Chancery.

These wills and Chancery cases not only help us to work out relationships but provide occupations, and some of the wills themselves are very interesting.

Being descended from Walter, his will is of particular interest to me but the most interesting has to be that of his brother William.

William was childless and it is the wills of those without children that can be most useful to genealogy, as a wider range of relations are often named; in this case it is also of interest because of the bequests made other than to relations. William had left Dartmouth (or Blackawton) and become both a goldsmith and tobacco trader in Exeter, and made a small fortune. He had enough money to leave for charitable purposes: for preaching, teaching and to clergy. William made his will at an interesting time, fairly soon after the restoration of the monarchy, which had been followed by requirements for clergy to conform or to be removed from their parishes. Most of the clergy who received bequests from William were some of those removed as they could not in conscience conform.

I have transcribed Willam’s (lengthy) will and am at present writing up notes that I will publish with it on this website.

What were the Wottons?

I will look at this in more detail, but so far I have seen several references to husbandmen Wottons in Blackawton. Despite his leaving a will which survives I don’t know what the occupation of my ancestor Walter was: he omitted to mention it!

If I have the burial of the right Crispin Wotton on the tree then he was a clothier. Kinsman Samuel Wotton (who with Walter was executor of William’s will) describes himself as ‘Gent’. Walter’s 4 daughter’s married a prosperous yeoman (Susanna), John Holdich, occupation unknown and then the Vicar (Jane), a gentleman (Elizabeth) and another yeoman (English). Jane was following in her father’s footsteps in marrying into a clergy family, as Walter’s second wife was the daughter of William Baylie who was for some years Minister of Stoke Fleming, after the incumbent had been ejected by the Puritans.

In Blackawton in the C16th

Although I can’t be sure of links to any, I have had a look at the Wottons in Blackawton in the C16th and early C17th in the hope of coming across something showing a link to my Wotton ancestors.

The Parish Registers entries include a baptism in 1550/51 of particular interest, because it is of an ‘Inglish Wootton’, i.e. the same name that was given to my ancestor 122 years later. In addition, an English Wotton married in Slapton in 1653, and was buried (as English Hingston, wife of William) in Blackawton in 1680.  Whilst this may seem such an unusual Christian name that a link may safely be assumed, on closer inspection it seems this may not be the case. Taking the country as a whole it is and was a rare Christian name. But looking in more detail it was used as a first Christian name used particularly in the C16th and C17th centuries, mostly dying out in the C18th, just a few in the C19th. Nearly all occurences of the name were in Devon and Cornwall, and then not evenly spread: Blackawton had more than its fair share, mostly in the C16th. (The extent to which it was used and that it was particularly popular in Blackawton may be distorted by the fact that most parish registers do not survive from 1538 as Blackawton’s do). Thirteen girls were given the name in Blackawton between 1540 and 1592, with ten different surnames, with 2 more (including ‘my’ English) in the C17th. There were enough to put the name into the minds of Walter and Jane as a possible name for their baby without them having to be using a family name.

Children were often named after Godparents. In this case the most likely would seem to be English Courtis or Courter, baptised Blackawton in 1647 or English Hingston née Wotton, the others being on the elderly side. English Courter married William Sparke, shown as Mr William Sparke, yeoman in the PR entry for his burial, so the same sort of position on the social ladder as Walter and Jane.

Court of Chancery

There were a couple of Court of Chancery cases involving Wottons of Blackawton; I have seen and photographed these and will be adding transcripts to this site in due course.

TNA ref: Date Summary
C 2/Eliz/C21/8 Eliz I Richard Coyle vs. Bennett Broadmede and his wife Margaret: Bill to establish lease for lives. A toft and land in Blackawton, Devon, agreed to be demised to plaintiff by William Wotton
C 3/294/38 1598 Richard husbandman of Wa(d)stray vs. William Will, regarding property in Blackawton
C 2/JasI/S36/31 1610 Vincent Sparke bringing complaint re William Wotton, son of the late William Wotton husbandman regarding tenement held of the manor of Blackawton

If not from Blackawton …

Actually, whether or not from Blackawton: a Wotton family from Harberton did very well for themselves. Could we be related? I think it is certainly possible. I have looked at a few wills (not transcribed) and not found any mention of any Blackawton relations, but most mention just a few close relations. There were a few Court of Chancery cases concerning the Harberton family and land including in Stoke Fleming and Dartmouth. If we are related I think it is just as likely, if not more so, that the Harberton Wottons came originally from the Dartmouth area, as that we are from Harberton or Totnes.

Interestingly, when my ancestor Walter married he was described as ‘of Harberton’. Had his wealthy relations there helping by giving employment to a poor kinsman?

Later Wottons

If Google or similar has brought you to this page because you had Wotton ancestors in Blackawton in the C18th – C20th, sorry, I am afraid this is later than my interest, but you may find something here relating to your earlier Wotton ancestors.

I doubt if you are descended from the 2 of the 3 generations of my Wotton ancestors that I know of – but we could be related further back. I say this as English’s descendants were Bartletts not Wottons, and although Walter, her father, had at least 7 children English was the only one to leave descendants. (A daughter of her sister Susanna died in infancy).

There could be more siblings I am not aware of, but of Walter’s siblings that I know of only a sister Elizabeth was the only one besides Walter to leave descendants, and again they weren’t Wottons.


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